## Leaves from the scrapbook-3

As described here these entries are from the scrapbook of Somakhya.

Entry 4; Āgantu, year Anala of the first cycle: I was at station to board the train to Kshayadrajanagara. My extended clansman’s wife got the young lady who I had accompany. She seemed like a quiet and shy person who said nothing beyond her name which was Shallaki. While remarkably unusual like that of the caturbhaginī, it still sounded vaguely familiar though I could not place it. Since I am no conversationalist myself I did not say anything beyond my name and just helped her a bit with her luggage. She seemed to be in the age range as the two younger caturbhaginī but something again struck me as unusual beyond her name: she had some lakṣaṇa-s similar to them unlike no other women, which are only visible to the insiders of the gaṇacakra. I again quietly remarked to myself that it was a strange thing. While some ruffianly dāḍhīvāle got into the train with us, thankfully, they passed ahead and the two other travelers in the compartment seemed innocuous. One was a soldier and the other was a pious vaiṣṇava woman. As the train got moving I spent my time looking out of the window as the vast expanses of Bhārata had always fascinated me. Occasionally an interesting temple and on other occasions a cemetery would pass by. When the latter would come in sight I would quietly utter the first verse of the Nīlarudra. Sometimes a strange-looking granite mountain would pass by. By examining its rock closely, I realized that these were the Archean granites — some of the oldest rocks on the Earth. As the train coursed ahead I caught sight of some sedimentary rocks likely from the Proterozoic and remarked to myself that someday I should perhaps journey there to see if I could collect some of that rock.

The reddish dusk soon gave way to the inky darkness of night and I could catch sight of the great star $\alpha$ Cygni giving me a good indication of the precise direction in which we were traveling. In clear air away from the cities I could catch sight of the Milky Way sprawling in the midst of the summer triangle. My fellow-traveler Shallaki then opened a large packet my extended clanswoman had provided her and asked if I might want to have dinner. I acquiesced and she quietly gave me a share while telling me that I could take more if I wished. She also courteously offered the food to the other two passengers who had, however, purchased their own fare. I received a message from Lootika who was also journeying back home to take the same exam but at a different center. Like me she too was unhappy about the break it was causing to the flow of our work. She also had some other sense of unease, which she stated arose from an encounter with a bhūta that Vrishchika had told her about. But the exchange grew more lively when she said that she had collected several specimens of microthelyphonid whip-scorpions in course of her field work that had been totally ignored since the English naturalists had found them in the days when their tyrants were lording it over our land. We exchanged messages regarding the peculiar bristles on their second limb wondered what their function might be. Thinking about this I seem to have fallen asleep.

The next morning when I arose the rest of the passengers in the compartment were already awake. The elderly vaiṣṇava woman was reading some devotional material and asked me if a certain station had passed since I was the only one who kept gazing out of the window. I replied in the negative. She was happy as she said that she wanted to get some surasā and uttered it with a Dravidian accent. I was a bit puzzled and did not get what she said. Shallaki pointed to me that she meant surasā as in tulasī. A little while later the train stopped for at that station and I darted out and got bunches of basil for the vaiṣṇava woman. Since she said she was proceeding to a shrine of Nṛsiṃha where she wanted to offer them I got some extra bunches so that she might offer some on our behalf too. She was very thankful that I had obtained the basil given that she might have not been fast enough with her aging limbs to get back into the train. She insisted on getting me and Shallaki dośaka-s in the next stop despite our strong protestations. Invoking Rudra that his darts might not harm me in the form of food I consumed the dośaka in order not offend the elderly woman.

When Shallaki told me that the lady meant tulasī by surasā, I made a remark that it gives some hint about the obscure etymology of the plant’s name. Till that point in the journey Shallaki and I had exchanged just a couple of sentences but her eyes suddenly lit up at that comment of mine and we had a interesting discussion on the etymology of the Indian words for the basil and wandered off into a discursive chat on the substrate in Indo-Aryan. It was in course of that conversation that I learned that she was interested in the evolution of languages and that it was the object of her study. The conversation also convinced me that the crossing of our paths had some deeper significance but I still did not known what it was.

Entry 5; Cakram, year Anala of the first cycle: Finally, we arrived at Kshayadrajanagara and upon getting off the train I saw Indrasena and his brother Pinakasena who had come to pick me up. I introduced them to Shallaki. The brothers stole a quick glance at each other with utter and unbelievable surprise but did not say anything. Suddenly, I realized that a prophesy from a few years back by might be playing out. We boarded the bus to go to Indrasena’s home. While my mother had wanted that I stay with my uncle during this visit, I instead had made up my mind to stay with Indrasena’s family. My cousin Saumanasa was also writing the same exam and I thought I could meet her briefly after the exam and convey my familial sentiments.

As the bus labored through the crowded roads of Kshayadrajanagara we saw many a dirty sight — a consequence of a roguish political party Congress-S which ruled the state and paid little heed to cleanliness. Coming from a small town Shallaki was more startled by the sights than the rest of us. Suddenly the bus came to a standstill and showed no signs of even inching forward. Despite craning my neck, I could not see much but Pinakasena clarified that the city was being visited by an important CEO of a mleccha multinational, a person of Indian origin, Pachchaisundari by name. Her convoy was passing by and had held up all the traffic. She was recently in the news for the supreme court had green-lighted her plan of online-social credit which she had established in collaboration with another CEO Lundberg. It works thus: If you say publicly made a statement on social media like ”Mohammad was perhaps the greatest man who ever walked on the earth” or ”Mahmud Ghaznavi employed Hindus and Moslems alike based on their merit and service credentials” then you got a positive credit. On the other hand if you made a statement like ”Baboor demolished a famous temple of the Hindus at Ayodhya” then you got a negative credit. Building negative credit could eventually lead to such a score that your email on Pachchaisundari’s platform could be locked up for a week or you could not post on social media and so on. But if you built positive credit you could cash it for discounts on online purchases, subsidized tickets for online movies and serials and the like. It was being touted as a great tool to aid the building of secular democracies although it was a model pioneered first the neo-Han empire of Xi in China.

After nearly a half hour wait, we finally got moving and reached Indrasena’s house. We let Pinakasena to lead Shallaki to the apartment she was to stay in with two other women. After I had refreshed myself with a bath, I went to Indrasena’s room and he mentioned the prognosis of the Vīrabhadra-nartaka. I nodded and said that everything was falling in place indeed and confirmed to him that till the moment I saw him and his brother I did not precisely realize what was playing out. Indrasena asked me if had heard anything from Lootika and before I could answer told me of Vrishchika’s encounter with the bhūta. I remarked that Lootika was rather worried of the same and that the alignments of the prophesies were rather striking and even quite unexpected to me.

Entry 6; Luki, year Anala of the first cycle: After the exam was over I briefly dropped by at my uncle’s workplace to wish him and then went to his house to meet my cousins and aunt. Then I ambled back to Indrasena’s home for the evening. Pinakasena had sought the permission of his parents to have Shallaki over over for dinner. Thus, when I came in the three of them were lost in a discussion on certain intricacies of the upāsanā of Guhyakālī. The prophesy was now confirmed in my mind beyond any smidgen of doubt. Leaving the other two to continue their discussion, for it was after all their kula, Indra and I went over to his room. He asked me a bit about the exam since he was to write the same the following year. I then offered worship to his idols and pictures of Vaiśravaṇa. He told me of a strange dream he had witnessed the prior night — he seemed think there was something to it. He had dreamt of a man being killed by a centrifuge rotor exploding out of its spin-drive and striking him. The four of us then went up to the terrace to ply the planchette as we all felt a strong premonition of encountering at least one bhūta. Surely enough, we had steady stream of phantoms animating our device one after the other. The first bhūta startled Indrasena greatly. It was a ghost of a young man who said that he had been killed in a centrifuge blast at Turushkarajapura. Indrasena wanted to engage him a bit more but I sensed danger in letting him hang around. So I signaled to Indra to dismiss him right away. Before leaving he tried to seize Shallaki but she repulsed him with a mantra that neither I nor Indra knew but was apparently known to Pinakasena. I knew, however, that it was not the last that our gang was going to see of this phantom.